This is an article dedicate to a genius, a man who always had photographed the world with the eyes of a child, known as “The boy who never grew up”. Lartigue had a great talent for finding many sparks of joy, as so many positive and happy moments of the human life.
His first pictures date back to 1902, when he was only eight years old. He began to take family portraits in classic poses. After a few years, he began to take an interest in joyful scenes of family life. He made many experiments on moving subjects (a jumping cat, a girl who comes down the stairs skipping steps, the flight of the kites and of the first airplanes, diving into the water, bicycle and car racing). He was a photographer and a painter, and throughout his life he kept a photographic diary of his days, with notes on the weather, on the photos taken, and on daily and family events.
His images are full of jokes, monents of joy, friendship, sun and dreams. He did the best to ignore the atrocities of his time especially during the First World War. During this period he retired from public life.
His photos remained almost unknown until the 60s, when the images he took in his childhood and adolescence were discovered by John Szarkowski, the curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, who organized an exhibition of his work.
He photographed mainly for himself, as noted in two of his famous aphorisms: “I take photographs with love, so I try to make them art objects. But I make them for myself first and foremost — that is important.” and “I have never taken a picture for any other reason than that at that moment it made me happy to do so.”
He immortalized the last days of the Belle Epoque, before the First World War; in this period, he loved to take pictures of beautiful and fashionable women who were walking on the boulevards of Paris.
He said, “Happiness is an element, which, like air, is everywhere.”
He is one of my preferred photographers, together with Doisneau, because they were endowed with a sense of humor together with the ability to capture happy moments in one click.
The BBC dedicated two documentaries about this great artist. The first one is called ‘The boy who never grew up’, where photographers like John Swannell and Sean Ellis talk about his work. The second one belongs to the ‘Masters of Photography‘ series, and it is a in-depth look at Lartigue and his work through his 90 years of dedication to document his life.
For a better understanding of the work of this talented artist, I invite you to view some of his photos on the site Master of Photography. There, you can find articles, resources and some his masterpieces, and an essay by Szarkowski.